East Of West #38 // Review
East Of West #38, by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Frank Martin, and Rus Wooton, features the Marshall going to New Orleans. Will he have his revenge on the Crown Prince or will he never leave New Orleans? This issue sees some of Hickman’s long term plotting reach fruition, and packs a nice surprise for long time readers.
After a brief stand-off, the Marshall is brought before the King of New Orleans. The King warns him away from his revenge and lets him go. Later that night, the King has his fourteen sons assemble for a dinner. Their pettiness enrages him and he comes to a fateful decision, one which the Marshall is only too happy to help him with. Meanwhile, back at the Black Tower, Archibald Chamberlain, President of the Confederacy, talks to his old friend and prisoner, Bel Solomon, former leader of the Texas Republic, about his future plans and the surprise he has in store for the rest of the fractured countries of America. Back in New Orleans, the Marshall fulfills his part of his deal with the King of New Orleans.
If East Of West has any weakness, it’s that most issues have too many plot lines going on and the wait between issues is so long that it’s hard for readers to remember what had happened in the previous issue. It’s a book that benefits the most from trade waiting. This issue, however, bucks that trend. It follows up directly with the events of the last issue, following the Marshall to New Orleans. It’s a simple plot line to follow, not nearly as convoluted as some of the other ones in the book. By the end of the issue, one important piece of the book is taken out. It’s a big surprise, since this particular plot line didn’t seem like it was going to end as cleanly as it did, and that shock is strangely welcome. East Of West is full of big, flashy fights, giant moments of violence that bring a brutal pay off. This issue’s pay off is no less brutal, given the circumstances, but it’s quick and clean. It’s a different kind of moment than readers have seen in this book, but given that this is a story of the machinations of multiple nations, it makes sense in that context.
Beyond that, readers get a few moments with Archibald, one of the more fun characters in the book. Archibald is a complicated individual; a genteel Southern gentleman on the one hand and a cunning manipulator with a hot gun hand on the other. Of all the power players in East Of West, he’s the one who has made the most moves and gained the most. Whatever his plans are, there’s a good indication it’s going to cause a lot of chaos, and the only person that chaos is going to benefit is Archibald. It also promises to be entertaining, because one of the things that make Archibald one of the better characters in the book is how captivating he and his plots are.
Nick Dragotta doesn’t really do anything special with his pencils this issue. There are no splashy fight scenes, no sweeping sci-fi city shots, no armies marching to war. It’s a quiet and simple issue. However, Dragotta’s acting helps make it all work, especially his work with the King of New Orleans. His facial expressions sell what’s going on in his head as he watches his children bicker at the dinner and the resignation with which he makes his deal with the Marshall. The issue ends with a full page spread of King and his Vizier speaking, the King slouching in his chair, the weight of his deal on his shoulders. It’s a wonderful scene, expressive without being verbose. Other artists could drawn this picture, but few would have pulled it off as well as Dragotta did.
East Of West #38 gives readers a good pay off. It keeps things straightforward, which is a change of pace for this book, following a single plot line for the entire installment, with only a small digression to set up the future of the book, catching readers up with one of the book’s most entertaining characters. This chapter has some important developments, made all the better by Dragotta’s expressive character acting. It’s one of the better single issue installments of East Of West and packs enough surprises to keep readers turning the pages in a different way than the book usually does it. It’s simple and quiet and all the better for it.